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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 56 (2014) 8, 496 - 504

New research

Migration status, familial vulnerability for psychiatric disorders, and schizotypal personality traits

O. van der Stelt, D. Boubakri, M. Feltzer

background The incidence of schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders is considerably raised among certain migrants and ethnic minorities. However, the association between migration status and the risk of psychoses is not yet fully understood.
aim To obtain a better understanding of the increased risk status of migrants by examining the separate and combined effects of migration status and a familial vulnerability to psychiatric disorder in relation to schizotypal personality traits.
method We conducted a cross-sectional study of two non-clinical samples of 62 Moroccan migrants and 41 Dutch non-migrants who were classified on the basis of a family history of a psychiatric or substance use disorder. We used self-report questionnaires to assess schizotypal traits, as well as measuring substance use, feelings of anxiety or depression, and perceptions of ethnic discrimination.
results Moroccan migrants with familial vulnerability displayed substantially stronger schizotypal personality traits than Moroccan migrants without familial vulnerability; the latter did not differ significantly from the Dutch non-migrants. In addition, migrants with familial vulnerability reported higher levels of substance use, feelings of anxiety or depression and perceptions of ethnic discrimination. These features were closely linked to the strength of their schizotypal traits.
conclusion These results support the hypothesis that those migrants who are both intrinsically vulnerable and chronically exposed to stressful social environments, in particular to ethnic discrimination are primarily the ones who run a high risk of psychosis and other psychiatric disorders.

keywords ethnic minority, familial vulnerability, high risk, personality, psychoses